How to Mindfully Connect with Others
One day in the grocery store, I noticed long lines at the automated checkout stations, while three cashier lanes nearby were empty. I took my groceries to a cashier. I asked him why are those three lanes are empty? Looking over at the lanes, where several people were checking their phones as they waited, he said, “Most of those people are young. Apparently, people in my generation just don’t much like to talk face-to-face.” It made me think. What if we all forget how to have a conversation?
Now, don’t get me wrong. Technology is important; it keeps us all connected in a way. But while we are more connected now to the whole world than we ever have been before, we are less connected to people in our everyday life. We’re having fewer conversations.
Forgetting How to Feel
Why is this a problem? We all need someone to talk to. It’s easy to become isolated. A conversation is based on physical presence, which is rooted in feeling. All our senses are involved. By talking to someone in person, we gain access to specific senses: appreciation, compassion, and love. These are the feelings that connect human beings to reality, which stimulates our intuition and awareness. If we become conditioned to the computer, then we become one-dimensional. We are less deep as individuals and more shallow, predictable, anxiety-ridden, and irritable. By not having conversations, we’re forgetting how to feel.
These days, some of us avoid conversation altogether because it requires too much attention. We’re accustomed to being distracted, and we forget how to focus, so we have trouble listening. We may not have time; we’re so busy with school or our responsibilities at work or at home. We may see conversation as a superfluous social gesture. And some of us don’t know how to talk to people because we’ve never been taught.
Social media and the news thrive on these elements. Our digital devices give us a false sense of power, creating a high-tech ego that wants to put its fingers in everything. Yet by having fewer face-to-face conversations, we are simultaneously disempowering the very source that can validate our identity: our relationship with other people.
Losing civility in our daily life, we further lose touch with our capacity to feel. We become genuinely confused about the fabric of reality and social norms, destroying peace within ourselves and others. And before we know it, we’re participating in the creation of a world where there’s more paranoia and less security for the mind and heart.
Paying Attention to Being Alive
Great artists use painting, sculpting, or music as their medium for bringing imagination into the world. Likewise, by opening up a conversation with another person, our inspiration has a channel to express itself. It is an art because it transmits feeling. Art brings beauty and meaning into our lives. Beauty is a sense of totality, or wholeness.
It has been said that a dark age is characterized by mass amnesia, in which our consciousness thickens and we forget our art. Then, after a while, we even forget what has been lost. Because language is one of the most subtle and sophisticated aspects of humanity, we must practice the art of good conversation. Simply put, if we don’t use it, we will lose it, devolving into more primal states of being.
From a meditative point of view, the art of conversation is an engagement in mindfulness and, therefore, being present. Mindfulness is the act of noticing. It is not engaging in like or dislike; it is paying attention to being alive.
Excerpts from The Lost Art of Good Conversation: A Mindful Way to Connect with Others and Enrich Everyday Life by Sakyong Mipham.
Photograph: © Unsplash
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